Let’s take a break from the heavy lifting today and cover something we all care about…. Red Sox retired numbers.
Now as we all know (unless you’re a caveman living under a rock.. no wait, they have car insurance so no excuses) the Sox finally retired Jim Ed’s #14. The number had not been worn since he took it off in 1989 (except by himself during the coaching days) but couldn’t be raised to ‘Retired Row’ because he hadn’t been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Yet Johnny Pesky had his number retired last year and did not meet such criteria.
I’m not even going to go down that long and winding slippery slope of saying “Pesky doesn’t deserve it” or “Why is his there?” or anything like it. Pesky’s #6 belongs there all day long, which brings me to my point…. so do a few others!
Pesky’s number was worn by a few guys to say the least before being retired but not in this century that I can recall. Buckner (1st term of service), Tony Pena and Damon Berryhill to name a few wore it. Pesky didn’t play 10 seasons with the Sox, retire a Red Sox or be elected to the Hall and still deserved the honor for his 60+ years of service to the hometown team. Maybe we should consider a way to ‘honor’ a number without retiring it…?
Try this. Let’s use Dom DiMaggio and Dwight Evans for example (everyone will have a candidate, I’m sure… Boggs, Clemens, Tiant, Tony C., and dozens more). Dom wore the number 7 which has most recently been worn by Christopher “Home Run Trot” Nixon and J.D. Drew. If we put his number up, do we take it from Drew in some Ray Bourque to Espo notion? No… high numbers in baseball look weak because of the prospect or minor league call up stigma. Even if you are J.T. Snow wearing dad’s Patriots’ number.
The numbers on ‘Retired Row’ are fashioned after the Sox home jersey colors, so let’s take the ‘honored’ numbers (as compared to retired) and put them in the road colors. Same size, just make the rear circle gray and the number a dark navy. Perhaps even fashion a jersey styled name plate atop the number (made smaller to look proper) to remind everone of just who it is honoring or if honoring two great players who wore the number (Manny and Evans for sh!ts and giggles). Place the numbers on ‘Retired Row’, past Jackie’s 42 or find another spot to display them, perhaps the top of the right field bleachers wall, and the Bleacher Creature’s can place the strikeout K’s below them during a game.
This way we see the ‘honored’ #7 for Dom, who didn’t meet the retired number criteria as set by the Red Sox organization but you can still give him his due in Sox history as a member of the ’46 team, a fantastic multi-time All-Star and all around teammate. Same for Dwight Evans. 24 is forever going to be linked to Manny Being Manny, but for nearly twenty years and two World Series (including his part in one of the greatest Series’ ever) it was Dewey’s. Put it up in road colors to ‘honor’ the player and his place in Sox history. Same for Jimmy Foxx, Wade Boggs and Luis Tiant… two HOF’s who had excellent runs with the Sox and one great personality who epitomized the team and the city if even for just a few short years. Just think, Wakefield probably won’t make it to the Hall, but we can still see his number resting proudly for generations to come, in his specific memory.
Now I know a lot of people like the Red Sox organizational criteria for having a number retired, it seperates us from the Yankees who seem to have maybe three or four numbers under 20 available (with #2 definately out of service and #6 most likely for Torre) and a long storied history of monument park. Well, it’s like the Celtics people, when you are the penultimate dynasty in your sport who wins decade after decade, you have great players and recognize them. I’m not saying I agree with it, but the loyalty factor is undeniable. This way, we won’t take the numbers out of circulation and still give the ‘honored’ player his due. If it’s done with class, as is most everything the Sox do, it can be something very special. Special to the memories of the Fans. Special to memories of the Player. Special to the ongoing tradition of Red Sox Baseball.